Salmon leather is not a material that first comes to mind when you think of luxurious Italian made handbags. But designer Lilja Viggosdottir has released her first collection of salmon leather bags, Nordik, showcasing its undeniable style, durability and function.
The market for Italian-made bags has always been common place for a successful range. Kiwi designer Lilja Viggosdottir has used her knowledge of fine fashion to release a leather bag collection made from mixed leathers, but predominantly salmon.
The 18-month process ended with a large collection that has a high-class feel and look that is also suitable for day-to-day use. We spoke to Viggosdottir about the long, and sometimes rocky, process she went through in order to release her latest collection, Nordik
You saw the salmon leather overseas, did the idea for a bag collection come straight away?
No, I never intended to design handbags. It developed naturally as I wanted to design something which would make the salmon leather the primary focus and really show its unique capabilities.
Tell us about why you chose to work with salmon leather over regular?
Initially I loved the texture and multiple finishes that were available but once I did some research and discovered the sustainable properties and unique tanning process I felt really inspired.
Source: Nordik offical Instagram
The manufacturing process takes place in Italy, do you think the fact that they are Italian made gives them a head start already on the market?
Absolutely, they are impeccably crafted and offer not only the sustainable aspect of the Icelandic salmon leather but that they’re ethically made and have a unique story; something that is really important for the progression of the fashion industry.
You said you had a less that satisfactory experience when trying to get the bags manufactured in New Zealand, what happened?
When I started designing the Einstök collection, I wanted to be a part of the manufacturing process and loved the idea of having my bags made here in New Zealand. I was new to the process involved in manufacturing leather bags, as my studies were primarily based on garment construction. Consequently the company took advantage of my lack of experience. At the time it was devastating, but now that I’m here I can appreciate what a necessary step that was and has helped me to work successfully with large overseas companies.
Apart from the first manufacturing difficulties, has there been any issues or barriers you’ve had to adapt to, to get these on the market?
Once I started working with the companies in Italy, everything seemed to fall in to place. The level of professionalism is incredible and the way they work with leather is an art which they take so much pride in.
Tell us about financial and personal investment you’ve put into this collection, how did you balance out your business with personal?
At this point, there isn’t a lot of balance! In terms of both personal and financial investment, I’ve always been an all or nothing kind of girl, so the minute I set out to start designing handbags, I put everything in to it.
Was the design for the bag the first, or did many ideas come before the finished product line?
This collection is a curated version of my initial designs. As I learnt more about the way bags were made, my designs reflected this. I wore the initial six prototypes to ensure they functioned well and catered to the women that I’m designing for. Small details like clipping the smaller products inside the larger ones for functionality and organisation and the wallet doubling as an evening purse, have been refined as the designs progressed.
How does salmon leather compare to regular, in terms of quality, price and sustainability?
Salmon leather is more expensive as it is a smaller product to produce, the strength and durability surpasses that of a regular hide because of the cross fibre structure. The tannery in Iceland who produce the salmon skins for Nordik are among the best in world, with numerous awards and recognitions for being a leading enterprise in the development of fish leather. They are unique in that the process which tans the skins is all powered by renewable hydro and geothermal energy. Nordik designs are made with the very best of both salmon and cow hides. I love that there is a balance of both leathers in the designs as the cowhide allows the salmon skin to stand out and provides a beautiful clean minimalist look to the bags.
Source: Nordik offical Instagram
This has been an 18-month journey for you, tell us about how it feels to be nearing the end of your first collection.
It feels surreal that I can finally share what I’ve been working so hard on. The journey has definitely been a long one but I’ve learnt so much about starting a business, every step has been invaluable. Mostly I feel grateful that I’ve had this opportunity and that I’ve had so much support in the past 18 months.
Tell us about the name Nordik, how does it relate?
Nordik was the name of my graduate collection in 2015 and the idea behind my brand name was to find one word which would encapsulate the feeling and design aesthetic of my product. Nordik relates to my Icelandic heritage and the inspiration behind my collection; it gives an idea of what my products might look like or the feel of the brand without having seen any imagery.
Viggosdottir’s range is available online here. Each bag showcase different character and functions, as well as shows the monumental effort that Viggosdottir has put in to the stunning collection.